Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spotlight On... Poetry for Children

--by Hanje Richards

April is National Poetry Month. Here is a selection of poetry books for children. Read them to kids, have kids read them to you. Kids may want to try some poetry writing and illustrating themselves! Celebrate Poetry in April! Have your children try some of the techniques used in these books: haiku, concrete poetry, a game of poetry, poems about seasons, or something in nature. Or try your hand. There are some great ideas here! Have some fun with Poetry in April.

Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888 (Ernest L. Thayer) - "And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; But there is no joy in Mudville - mighty Casey has struck out." Those lines have echoed through the decades, the final stanza of Casey at the Bat, a poem published pseudonymously in the June 3, 1888, issue of the San Francisco Examiner. Christopher Bing's magnificent version of this immortal ballad of the flailing 19th-century baseball star is rendered as though it had been newly discovered in a hundred-year-old scrapbook. Bing seamlessly weaves real and trompe l'oeil reproductions of artifacts — period baseball cards, tickets, advertisements, and a host of other memorabilia — into the narrative to present a rich and multifaceted panorama of a bygone era.

A Child’s Calendar (John Updike) - First published in 1965, Updike's calendar presents a child-centered poem for each month of the year. Hyman's colorful illustrations portray a multiracial family living in rural New Hampshire through the changes of seasons. But, the landscape and weather are only backdrops for the activities that define the seasons for young people: sledding, kite flying, planting, watching baseball on TV, wading in the creek, picnicking, swimming, choosing apples, trick-or-treating, giving thanks around the table, and waiting for Christmas.

Doodle Dandies: Poems That Take Shape (J. Patrick Lewis) - An inventive collection of concrete poems. In each selection, the essence of the subject is captured in the typeface used for the words, the shape in which the lines are arranged, and through Desimini's brilliant mixed-media collages.

Gargoyle on the Roof (Jack Prelutsky) - With vim and darkly musical verse, Prelutsky introduces gremlins, griffins, goblins, basilisks, and their kinfolk, playing readers like stringed instruments, keeping them rapt with quick changes in tempo and by varying the architecture of his poems. Some start out silky and charming. Others inject dread into the bones from the opening gate: Sis' artwork is a perfect companion to the verse, gratifyingly sinister with its Transylvanian landscapes and crabbed, clawed surfaces. Both poet and illustrator know, however, how to bevel the effects to make the chills a pleasure: Sis makes his troll roly-poly, and Prelutsky defangs a werewolf.

I Am Writing A Poem About…: A Game of Poetry (Myra Cohn Livingston) - As a teacher of poetry at UCLA, Myra Cohn Livingstone's first assignment to her class was to use one given word in a poem: the second was to use three given words; and the final one was to use six words. From these poems, Mrs. Livingstone chose this collection.

Jazz ABZ: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits - Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz composer Wynton Marsalis teams with cutting edge graphic artist Paul Rogers, and together they create this elegant tribute to twenty-six stellar jazz performers. Marsalis harmonizes his love and knowledge of jazz’s most celebrated artists with an astounding diversity of poetic forms — from simple blues (Count Basie) to a complex pantoum (Charlie Parker), from a tender sonnet (Sarah Vaughan) to a performance poem snapping the rhythms of Art Blakey to life. Complementing Marsalis’ musical cadences is the bold, poster-style art of Paul Rogers. The art’s vibrant, nostalgic feel is echoed in an exquisite design.

Monster Goose (Judy Sierra and Jack E. Davis) - Old Monster Goose has turned Mother Goose’s world of nursery rhymes inside out! Here she presents twenty-five deliciously disgusting new poems, filled with rodents and maggots, zombies and ghouls, spiders and, of course, monsters. Remember King Cole? That terrible troll washes his feet in the toilet bowl. And poor Mistress Mary, her garden’s quite scary — its killer potatoes ate all her tomatoes and now are out looking for Mary!

Please Don’t Squeeze Your Boa, Noah (Marilyn Singer) - Witty, observant verses about various unusual pets and their loving owners are accompanied by off-beat portrayals of the eccentric creatures, in illustrations that pay homage to some great artists.

Poetry Speaks to Children (CD) - On this CD (with accompanying book), 50 poems are brought to life — most read by the poets themselves — allowing the reader to hear the words as the poets intended. Hear Gwendolyn Brooks growl her rhyming verse poem "The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, or, What You Are You Are" with verve and inflection — relaying the story of the striped cat who "rushed to the jungle fair for something fine to wear," much to the hoots of his jungle peers. Amid jeers, sneers and sighs, the tiger eventually learns to be comfortable in his own striped skin (or fur as it were!). Follow Ogden Nash as he tells of the brave little Isabel, who "didn't worry, didn't scream or scurry" when confronted with a ravenous bear, a one-eyed giant, or a troublesome doctor. Her clever solutions to problems ("She turned the witch into milk and drank her") will keep even the most reluctant readers interested. Listen to James Berry, who quells a little girl's anxieties about her color by celebrating the marriage of "night and light," emphasizing how all colors are necessary in nature, in "Okay, Brown Girl, Okay."

Poetry Speaks to Children (Book) - This book (with accompanying CD) reaches into the world of poetry and pulls out the elements children love: rhyme, rhythm, fun and, every once in a while, a little mischief. More than 90 poems, for children ages six and up, celebrate the written word and feature a star-studded lineup of beloved poets, including: Roald Dahl; J. R. R. Tolkien; Robert Frost; Gwendolyn Brooks; Ogden Nash; John Ciardi; Langston Hughes; Sonia Sanchez; Seamus Heaney; Canada's best-loved children's poet, Dennis Lee; Rita Dove; Billy Collins; Nikki Giovanni and X. J. Kennedy.

Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems (Joyce Sidman) - From spring’s first thaw to autumn’s chill, the world of the pond is a dramatic place. Though seemingly quiet, ponds are teeming with life and full of surprises. Their denizens — from peepers to painted turtles, duckweed to diving beetles — lead secret and fascinating lives. A unique blend of whimsy, science, poetry, and hand-colored woodcuts, this collection invites us to take a closer look at our hidden ponds and wetlands. Here is a celebration of their beauty and their mystery.

Today and Today (Kobayashi Issa) - Brian Karas has always been moved and inspired by the haiku poetry of Issa, whose work is taught in schools and loved by children around the world. Here, Karas has selected 22 of his favorite poems to tell the story of a year in the life of a family — a year in which they will experience the loss of their beloved grandfather, and also the renewal that comes from healing after loss. With stunning mixed media artwork that represents a major breakout for this acclaimed artist, Today And Today offers an authentic, reassuring look at life's many cycles — and the small miracles that occur each day.